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Gigantic: 38 Kilometers Worth of Library and Archived Material are Moving

Angela Malz, Director of the University Library at Chemnitz University of Technology, speaks in an interview about the impending move of the library back to the Alte Aktienspinnerei

The space behind the bus station is currently one of the most important construction sites in Chemnitz, not only financially, of around 52 million euros, but also in relation to the eventful history of the Alte Aktienspinnerei building. This year, the new Chemnitz University of Technology university library will open in the former factory building. Mario Steinebach, who leads the Press Office and Cross-Media Communications at Chemnitz University of Technology, chatted with Angela Malz, Director of the University Library, about the move.

From the outside, the building behind the bus station is already recognisable as a university library, because the name on the new façade is visible from afar. Why hasn’t the move started yet?

Yes, from the outside, the building looks very nice. But there is still a lot to do inside. The finishing work is in its final phases. And there is still a pending security inspection of the building. If everything goes according to plan, Saxon State Real Estate and Construction Management will hand over the keys to the university on 31 March – but the move of more than 1.2 million books and a large amount of archival materials to the new building is not quite ready to begin.

What needs to be done before moving the library holdings?

Starting on 1 April, and this is not an April Fool’s joke, the library will start to be filled. In the meantime, all fixed fixtures, such as the magazine shelves, the reading room fixtures and the lending and information counters, are there. However, all movable furniture still has to be delivered and installed. This affects the freehand areas first – more than 22,000 meters of shelving have to be built. After that, the learning and communication areas, the training rooms, the PC workstations and group study rooms will be equipped with furniture and technology.

That sounds like a gigantic task. When does the actual move begin?

As of 2 June 2020, the magazine holdings of the two campus libraries and the central library will begin their move. And by the way, the libraries will continue to be open normally during this time. The magazine holdings can only be used to a limited extent though, due to the move. Depending on the progress of the move, any holdings that are requested will either be taken from the old magazine or from the new magazine stock, and they will be made available at the old library. It is understood that this process will have a bit of delay.

And when will the main holdings move to the new shelves?

The move of the main holdings from Campus Library I will start on 3 August. This library will be closed during that time. In urgent cases, however, their holdings can be lent to a limited extent – that means, they must be ordered similar to the magazine holdings, and depending on their status, they can be checked out of the Central Library. This library and Campus Library II will still be open normally. A month later, on 31 August, the main holdings of Campus Library II will begin. The library will then be closed, and the main holdings can be accessed similar to those of Campus Library I. On 21 September, the Central Library will close, and its contents will then be relocated. Between 21 and 30 September, all previous library locations will be closed, and no printed media will be available. We will adjust our loan periods accordingly. During the entire relocation phase, however, all electronic media will be available as usual, so there will be no restrictions for the digital library holdings.

Who will be undertaking this gigantic move?

Gigantic is definitely the right word for it. In total, more than 38 kilometers of library and archival material will be moving. If you put everything in a row, this would result in a distance that is longer than that between Chemnitz and Freiberg. We are commissioning a company for the move, and the selection process for this is currently underway. The employees of the university library will do their utmost to support the move and will be checking the packing and unpacking of the inventory. After they are unpacked in the Alte Aktienspinnerei, the printed books and magazines need to be reorganised, because the stocks of each of the three current locations are arranged in an order. This task will be carried out by the university library staff. Because this is such a large task, we are already asking our users to borrow all media they will need during the relocation phase, before the current locations are closed. Of course, we will try to provide the desired media in urgent cases, even during the move, but this should ideally really only happen in exceptional cases.

When will the new library open?

The new library will open as of the start of Winter Semester 2020/2021. The opening hours will be as follows: Monday to Friday from 9:00 until midnight, Saturday from 10:00 until 18:00. As is already the case in our current libraries, library staff will not be able to be present during all opening hours. We will be there until 19:00 on weekdays and until 13:00 on Saturdays. After that, a security service will be overseeing the library. However, even if the library is open, the move is not yet complete. Behind the scenes, printed holdings of the patent information center and other magazine holdings will also be moving, as well as furniture and the offices of library staff. And in November 2020, the university archive will move.

Will the library then be more or less ready for daily business?

 As of December 2020, all holdings and all employees will be in the new library. But daily business will not be totally moved in yet, because all processes and all technical bodies will need to be re-established. We are planning a test phase for this that will run until March 2021. At that point, everything must be in top shape, because on 1 April 2021, we want to expand our opening hours to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We will be the only 24/7 library in Saxony, open completely and open around the clock.

How will a 24/7 library work?

We will be putting a lot of emphasis on technological support. There will be machines for both lending and returning media. Additionally, there will be a book transport system that will get the books back to their floors. However, we will have employees to put them back on the shelves. Security personnel will ensure a secure building on nights, weekends and public holidays.

Will there be enough workspaces in the new library?

I believe so, because there will be more than 700 spots available to accommodate different study methods. If you want to be quiet, you can sit in the reading room or rent a workspace. There will be individual spaces in the open areas, as well as spaces for smaller groups who do not like total silence. There are also four larger group study rooms for collaborative learning. There will be a large area on the ground floor, which is intended as a communication area. It will be divided into several islands, with space available for everyone who wants to read, learn, communicate and meet friends – all together. There are also parent-child areas here – one for very small children and one for older ones, up to around 12 years of age. When the weather is nice, a reading garden will also be open. And the group study rooms can also be converted into larger event rooms, if need be.

Will there be any upcoming changes to visiting the library in general?

Everything that was previously possible at the library will remain, and of course all library cards will still be valid. What is new is that all library offerings will be united under one roof, and our users will be able to find the precise type of space that fits their study habits. Of course, we are also working on new services. So there should be a larger selection of reservable offerings and new formats. The library staff will continue to be available to all users. As it stands, a new addition to our team, who is very different in size and shape from all of us, will be joining us. Who that will be is a surprise.

Then we are eagerly anticipating the new, mysterious staff member and of course our new library. We wish you and your team all the best in this upcoming phase of the move. May you never lose track! Thank you for the very informative conversation!

(Interview: Mario Steinebach / Translation: Jeffrey Karnitz)

Mario Steinebach

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